Why Do English & French False Cognates Exist?

A medieval drawing of a town takeover with horseman, armors and spears

In today’s post MOLKOÏ briefly covers the reason why false cognates exist between English and French just so you actually know for real.

Throughout its history, the English language has been subject to many influences. However, the Latin and French influence are the ones who were the most impactful. Together, they are responsible for 58% of the English vocabulary.

The Latin influence dates as far back as antiquity when:

  • The Roman Empire invaded British islands where they established Latin as the administrative and political language,
  • The Catholic Church expanding in Anglo-Saxons territories.

As for the French influence, it comes from William the Great, duke of Normandy, who took over the British throne in 1066. The Royal Court then occupied by Normans, French an English started coexisting on the territory. Slowly but surely French was used by Nobles, Courts, Administration and Literature, while English was left behind to the use of peasants and undereducated people. In the 13th century, English made a come back as we know it today, infused with 29% of French content. It represents roughly 10,000 words from which 1700 are true cognates whether they simply share similar spelling or the same exact meaning. On the other hand, there are hundred of false cognates that share similar spelling but different meanings that evolved with the different cultural contexts of the countries.

Here is a story that also explains why when you read or listen to a French speech, you are able to decipher much more than you thought you would.

Crazy right?! 🤓

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